1. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is back in the hot seat Friday, with investigators questioning him in the Bezeq case.
- Netanyahu was questioned several time in cases 1000 and 2000, but Haaretz calls the newest allegations of regulatory kickbacks in exchange for favorable media coverage “the most serious case yet.”
- It’s not just the premier who’s getting grilled. His wife, Sara Netanyahu, is also speaking to investigators, “concurrently but separately,” according to Yedioth Ahronoth, which calls it a “two-front action” by police. The tabloid reports that Netanyahu spent much of Thursday in consultation with advisers getting ready for the questioning.
- Channel 10 news reported Thursday night that police have a tape of Bezeq owner Shaul Elovitz telling the editor of the Walla news website, which he also owns, that “we need to prop up Netanyahu, he is propping us up.”
- However, pro-Netanyahu tabloid Israel Hayom quotes a senior police source as saying that cops do not have any tape of conversations between Netanyahu and other suspects in the case.
- Nonetheless, Gidi Weitz’s deep dive into Case 4000 in Haaretz notes that Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit is taking this case more seriously, thanks to wealth of texts, emails and affidavits testifying to the suspicions. “Unlike the previous cases, the Bezeq-Walla investigation is not expected to stretch for many months, but to be decided together with the cigars-and-champagne and Yedioth Ahronoth cases. The three are intertwined and complement each other,” he writes.
2. Netanyahu is also expected to be asked about the submarine bribery scandal, which has entangled a number of people close to him, though investigators have previously been sure to note that the prime minister is not a suspect.
- In Yedioth, columnist Shimon Shiffer compares Netanyahu’s roles in the cases to the grandmother in a popular children’s song who makes grits, but not enough for everybody. “It works like this, Netanyahu makes the grits. The profits from the naval deal with Germany are received, according to suspicions, by his associates. The profits from deals in the telecom industry are received, according to suspicion, by his friend Elovitch. The brokerage fees from the deals are received, according to suspicion, by his strategic advisers. And who has nothing left to get from this public pie? Us, the citizens of Israel.”
3. A simmering coalition crisis between Yisrael Beytenu and Haredi lawmakers over drafting ultra-Orthodox soldiers skidded into the realm of the silly Thursday with a video from defense minister and Yisrael Beytenu head Avigdor Liberman donning a Haredi soldier Purim costume and quipping that “When Adar begins, we happily enlist.”
- Liberman suggested Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman and MK Moshe Gafni — both of the ultra-Orthodox United Torah Judaism — should join the elite Sayeret Matkal and Shayetet 13 naval commando unit, respectively.
- It seems the ultra-Orthodox community is not laughing. On Friday morning, an effigy of a soldier was hung from a building in the Mea Shearim neighborhood of Jerusalem as the city celebrated Purim a day later, until police came and removed it.
- “Another provocation,” ultra-orthodox report Eli Shlezinger writes on Twitter.
שוב פרובוקצייה: תלו בובה בדמות חייל ברחוב מאה שערים. כוחות משטרה שהגיעו למקום הסירו את הבובה.
צילום: חיים גולדברג pic.twitter.com/BfHF9MdILi
— אלי שלזינגר Eli Slezinger (@EliShlezinger) March 2, 2018
- Haaretz’s Yossi Verter says Liberman is itching for a fight with the ultra-Orthodox, and Netanyahu also would not mind heading to the polls early instead of waiting another year and a half. “A pre-indictment election campaign is the last one he’ll ever win, at least according to the polls. Moreover, if the coalition rope frays and unravels over the draft legislation dispute, no one could charge the premier with having dragged the country into an election for his own personal interests or an ulterior motive,” he writes.
- Israel Hayom publishes an internal Likud survey that shows Netanyahu’s party getting a whopping 36 Knesset seats (well over the 30 it enjoys now), Yesh Atid far behind with 23 seats and everyone else with 11 or fewer. The poll also shows UTJ leaping to 10 seats and Shas sinking to 4. The poll is a far cry from other surveys, which show Likud leading, but with about 10 fewer seats.
4. The announcement that Britain’s Prince William is headed to Israel this summer is the biggest news of a UK invasion since the Beatles almost played Tel Aviv.
- The official visit will be the first in Israel’s almost 70-year existence, during which time nearly every other country in the world has been visited by a representative of the Crown, though rumors of royal tours to the Holy Land have swirled for years.
- “Anyone hoping to see Kate dipping into hummus in Jaffa will probably be disappointed as the princess is not expected to join,” Yedioth Ahronoth reports.
- The Guardian notes that “ the political sensitivities of the visit were exemplified when the British embassy in Tel Aviv released a Hebrew-language press release that omitted the word ‘occupied’ from the Kensington Palace statement.”
- Palestinian official Xavier Abu Eid complained about the omission on Twitter and later reported it was changed.
5. In Canada, CBC political analyst Jonathan Kay writes that the decision by the country’s Tories to pledge to recognize Jerusalem answered a question nobody was asking. “The issue has no direct bearing on Canada. This isn’t a question of Canada being an ‘honest broker’ because no one asked us to broker anything. The only effect of [Conservative leader Andrew] Scheer’s declaration is to encourage the idea that negotiation is pointless for the Palestinians, because the fix is already in,” he writes.
6. Jared Kushner’s very bad week is continuing to dominate press coverage after it emerged he had lost top-level security clearance and may be a target of manipulation by Israel and other countries.
- The Times of Israel’s Eric Cortellessa writes that Kushner’s security clearance downgrade will hurt, but not kill, his peace push, as it will mainly damage how he is seen by the parties involved. “A lot of this is hype and image and smoke, but the notion that people have access to information and that [information] is power is a universal concept in negotiations,” policy wonk Aaron David Miller says.
7. Kushner’s image in the US, meanwhile, seems to be in the toilet, thanks to the affairs.
- The Washington Post rounds up all the editorial cartoons mocking the Trump son-in-law, including one in which his “very important” White House role is downgraded to fetching coffee.
- The New York Times’s editorial board also takes aim, leveling a broadside against the top White House adviser: “One year in, what has Mr. Kushner accomplished? The answers point to why, from the nation’s founding to the present day, the architects of American democracy have tried so mightily to restrict the hiring of presidential relatives. Mr. Kushner’s achievements have not only been paltry, but he is directly implicated in some of the president’s most destructive — and self-destructive — decisions, as well as in some of the most serious accusations of self-dealing that have been made against the administration.”
- “This week very clearly shows why Jared Kushner should lose his job at the White House,” The Democratic National Committee says in a news release.
8. Kushner isn’t visible in negotiating buddy Jason Greenblatt’s tweet of a Purim Megillah reading in the White House, for which apparently everyone dressed up as bureaucrats.
- The Daily Mail, though, has pictures of Jared dressing up as someone without a care in the world and inviting in guests for the holiday at his home.
9. It’s still Purim in Jerusalem, so there’s still time to read Marissa Newman’s tale of when a German Zeppelin visited Tel Aviv and Jerusalem for the holiday in 1929. Just a few years later, the same ship would have a swastika on its tail.